By: Shana Campbell
Get excited and let the countdown begin because Mardi Gras is on Tuesday, March 4! What is Mardi Gras anyways? Simply put, it is an annually celebrated holiday in resilient New Orleans. However, what is it really? If you ask this question to a tourist, they may describe partying on Canal Street with friends and drinking cold, delicious daiquiris. Alternately, if you pose this question to a New Orleanian, their description may illustrate symbols of tradition and family. Even though I cannot claim New Orleans as my hometown, I often dream of the savory traditions of the city.
Upon graduation from Spelman College, I relocated to Greater New Orleans to participate in a ten-month AmeriCorps program, City Year Inc. where I worked full-time as a tutor and mentor to at-risk elementary students. During my service term, I lived in New Orleans East near the Lower 9th Ward. Living in New Orleans East, I experienced Mardi Gras very differently than tourists. I enjoyed the festivities in my community with fellow neighbors and families; not on Canal Street. I learned quickly that Mardi Gras was about traditions, parades, music, good food, and extravagantly decorated floats and costumes. Mardi Gras was certainly a happy time for my students and I; what I remember most was the excitement they felt during this time. My students taught me that you always celebrate Mardi Gras with a king cake.
During Mardi Gras, nearly all businesses are closed since most streets are completely inundated with parades and crowds of people. To describe Mardi Gras in three words, I would say community, fun, and tradition. Even though I won’t be in attendance this year, I am still excited for all those that get to enjoy it. For more information about Mardi Gras celebrations, please visit http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/. Enjoy and Happy Mardi Gras 2014!